Climbing the Career Ladder

by sysop in From Campus to Career, On the Job 101

The Career Ladder

by Kristina Burroughs

The realities and fantasies of climbing the career ladder are vastly different in life after college. As recruiters, we see a lot of young professionals coming out of college or internships expecting big titles, unrealistic salaries, and management responsibilities. For some industries, your chances of landing this type of job may increase, but it is important to remember that entering the workforce is not only a privilege but a process. There are many things to learn about life, leadership, priorities, management, and how to thrive in an organizational culture that are not learned overnight.  A seemingly slow start could be your greatest foundation for a successful life-long career. The intangible qualities of great managers and leaders are not learned in their current positions but based on what they learned on their ascent up the ladder – qualities like humility, character, responsibility, reliability, prioritization, mentorship, integrity, a hard work ethic, and the importance of compliance to the organization’s policies and values.

Here are some tips to remember as you make the transition from college, an internship, or your first job into the workforce.

  • Entry Level Positions: It is not uncommon for young professionals to move from internships into administrative or executive assistant, office manager, receptionist, or coordinator positions. Remember that doing the small things well in healthy organizational cultures should lead to more decision rights and opportunities to grow. Don’t discount job opportunities because the job entails tasks you do not enjoy like cleaning the kitchen, making coffee, sorting the mail, and answering the phones. Be careful not to discount the days of small beginnings; you are learning the ins and outs of how an organization operates.
  • Salary Expectations: Do your research before you use your next application as a lottery system. Some career coaches or even University career centers will tell you to shoot higher than you think the position pays. Recruiters will tell you there is nothing wrong with going higher than your current salary but make sure you’re within the reasonable market value for the position. Consider things like your experience in a full-time role, the geography of the position, and the type of organization and/or industry. Is the organization a non-profit or for profit? Will they be willing to negotiate?
  • Titles & Positions: Titles are negotiable to employers but should reflect the level and type of work that you will be doing. It is important to keep in mind that great employees are never defined by their titles. If you focus on creating value and become an entrepreneur in your work place, then your title won’t limit or define your contribution to the organization. Don’t get stuck on the title of a position but rather consider the broader picture of where you’re going. You have to begin somewhere, so think twice before declining an offer because the title is not “fancy” enough.

As you consider taking your next step on your career ladder, keep these basic tips in mind. It may just change your direction or launch you into a career path you hadn’t previously considered.